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March 10, 2018

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Ice speed skater Zhang receives IOC honor for services to sport

“A big turning point and an absolutely extraordinary day,” said China’s speed skater Zhang Hong after being elected onto the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission in Pyeongchang, South Korea, late last month.

The 29-year-old was elected following a vote at the 132nd IOC session after being nominated by IOC President Thomas Bach.

“I would like to thank President Bach for trusting me and supporting the Chinese athletes,” said Zhang, adding that she would continue the work her predecessor, short track skater Yang Yang, has been doing and try her best to make a contribution to the development of Chinese sports.

Four years ago, Zhang claimed China’s first-ever Olympic speed skating title by winning the women’s 1,000m at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

According to Zhang, that was both the highlight of her athletic’s career and a turning point in her life.

“In the past four years, I have experienced a lot, not only victories, but also setbacks and injuries. Especially in the last one and a half years, my knees hurt every day,” said Zhang.

Due to her knee injuries, Zhang finished 11th and 15th in women’s 1,000m and 500m in Pyeongchang, but she believes that being able to compete was already a victory for her.

“How many four years can an athlete have? I feel honored to have been able to participate in my second Olympics,” she said. “It’s not just about the medal, but more about the Olympic spirit.”

For Zhang, the day she was selected was “actually a bigger turning point” of her life compared with that of four years ago, because now she represents not only herself, but also more athletes.

“I want to fit in this big family (IOC Athletes’ Commission) as soon as possible and find out things that I should do and the choices that I should make,” she said.

Having spent 22 years on the ice, Zhang said that skating is not only her career, but an inseparable part of her life.

“If I get up one day and don’t skate, I don’t know what to do with my day. It would feel like something was missing,” she said.

As for 2022 Beijing Games, Zhang said she has been giving a lot of thoughts to it.

I really want to compete as an athlete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but if my knees won’t allow it, I want to be involved in the ice sport I love so dearly,” she said.

As for staying involved and doing more for the ice sport she loves, Zhang already has plans, including taking a master’s program at Tsinghua University in sports event management in September later this year.

She also wants to help find more Chinese speed skating talent, for example, to see whether there is a chance to invite short track skaters, roller skaters and athletes in other fields to join in ice speed skating discipline.

Zhang lives a highly disciplined life. In her spare time, she loves reading, and recently improving English has become a goal.

“If we want to achieve something, whether being a good athlete or doing a good job, or learning English, we all need to make our best efforts,” she said.


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